Whilst cortisol is a completely natural hormone and helpful for many functions in the body, if it is being overproduced it can cause many issues, including increased weight gain, particularly around the belly.
Lowering cortisol levels in the body can be achieved through various lifestyle changes and stress management techniques. Here are some strategies that can help reduce cortisol levels:
Improving sleep hygiene practices, such as creating a relaxing bedtime routine and maintaining a comfortable sleep environment, can help promote restful sleep and lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is closely linked to your circadian rhythm, your 24 hour internal body clock that tells your body when you need to be awake and alert and when you need to sleep. If this is out of sync your cortisol levels are affected. Ensure you get sufficient and quality sleep on a regular basis. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and establish a consistent sleep routine.
Stress is part of lifes, there is no avoiding it, however we can take steps to reduce it. Incorporate activities that promote relaxation and self-care into your daily routine. This can include taking breaks, practicing self-care rituals such as taking baths, engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy, spending time in nature, or listening to calming music.
When you are stressed your body releases cortisol to help you manage the stress. Keeping calm, focusing on the importance of slowing down and ensuring you schedule in time to destress every day can help to keep the cortisol levels at the minimum.
Cultivating a strong support system and maintaining healthy relationships can help with lowering stress levels and buffer the impact of stress on cortisol levels.
Coffee, or any caffeine based beverage increases cortisol levels because it stimulates your central nervous system and in turn produces more cortisol. Particularly if you drink coffee on an empty stomach. Consider reducing your consumption of caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and energy drinks, or opt for decaffeinated alternatives.
Regular physical activity is so important for lowering cortisol in the body. Aim for a combination of aerobic exercises (e.g., walking, jogging, swimming) and strength training exercises. However, avoid overtraining or excessive exercise, as this can actually increase cortisol levels. The key is to be balanced, listen to your body and adjust what type of exercise you do based on how you feel. For women, at certain times of the month you know you can push harder and other times you need to opt for a more gentler approach, such as yoga or pilates.
Consuming a well-balanced diet that includes whole foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats will support your body’s cortisol production levels. Avoid or limit the intake of processed foods and refined sugars, as they can contribute to cortisol dysregulation. Additionally, prioritising regular meal times and avoiding skipping meals will help stabilise your cortisol levels. Irregular eating patterns can impact cortisol levels.
It’s important to remember that cortisol is a vital hormone involved in various physiological processes, and complete elimination is neither possible nor desirable. The goal is to maintain cortisol levels within a healthy range and manage chronic or excessive cortisol elevation. If you’re concerned about your cortisol levels or experiencing chronic stress, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for personalised guidance and support.